It Takes Two: Fire Door Friends

Kirkland House roommates Kathleen J. Koenigs ’15 and Nosipho D. “Dichaba” McGinty ’15 met across their freshman fire door. Their friendship is a testament to the fact that, though mostly utilized for eavesdropping, a thin fire door occasionally provides more than just fodder for resentment—it can be the key to finding a best friend.


“My friends from home and I made videos of our first week at college, and I was holding my laptop out walking around my room giving a tour. I have a super loud and bubbly voice. And so I guess I was super loud and I said, “Oh, look at this—we have a window and this is our bathroom and this is our sink!” I didn’t realize that the people next door could hear me the entire time. Later we had a Straus mixer where we got to meet people in the dorm. Apparently the people next door recognized my voice. We went down the line and said ‘Hi’ and they said to each other ‘Oh, that’s that girl!’ and apparently they thought I was super obnoxious and they were really put off. But then we met and we clicked right away. It was an immediate thing. From then on I basically stopped living in my own room. We actually tried to petition to get the fire door opened so I could just go straight across, but they said that wasn’t allowed. So instead I would go down all four flights of stairs across and up four flights of stairs. I probably spent about 75 percent of my time there.I remember it was my birthday, which is in October, so we were already really close at that point. It was midnight and they blindfolded me and sang happy birthday. I was so happy because no one had ever done that for me before. So I just came out with it and said ‘You know what? I think we should block together.’ It’s been great living with her. We get to share clothes, we get to share makeup and jewelry. We just live very well together, which is very lucky. We have similar ideals, but beyond that we are not very similar. We don’t have very similar interests, very similar backgrounds. She’s from Botswana, raised there for seven years. I’m from Colorado and have lived in the same house my whole life. But we somehow just sort of complete the other person. It’s funny because if I hadn’t met my fire door neighbors, then I would have had a completely different experience at Harvard, which is weird to think about. I don’t even know what the alternative would be because we are so close.”


“We met maybe the third day of school, only a few days after we moved in. The first two days, my roommate and I had been hearing Kathleen’s voice through the fire door. I remember the first time I ever heard her she was giving a tour of her room to someone and she was like, “and this is my bathroom!” And my roommate and I thought. ‘Oh my God—we’re going to have to listen to this person for a whole year.’I think the next day was the first dorm-wide study break so that everyone could meet. And that’s how we met. We met her roommate and we said, ‘We can hear you through the fire door,’ and her roommate said, ‘Oh, that’s Kathleen,’ and then she pointed her out and we met her. Kathleen’s birthday is in October and I remember we were in Lamont that night: Kathleen, my other roommate, and myself. We surprised her by buying her a slice of cake and presenting it to her at midnight. And Kathleen freaked out and said, ‘Let’s block together!’ Though we didn’t talk about blocking officially until the next semester, we knew we’d be friends for a long time. We’re very different. She’s very loud and vivacious, which is definitely what my freshman roommate and I first noticed about her. It could have been something that was annoying if we didn’t know her, but because we know her that’s a huge part of what we love about her. I’m more quiet, but I think we kinda balance each other out in that way. We both like to dance and go out together. Our academic interests are very different and extracurriculars as well, but we’re very considerate of each other’s lives. She’s been a huge part of my Harvard experience.”